WASHINGTON — Former GOP Rep. Bob Dold narrowly lost a re-election bid to Democrat Rep. Brad Schneider in November 2012, and by March 2013, he regrouped: In addition to running the family pest control business, he formed White Whale Consulting and joined the board of a new group promoting federal spending for transportation infrastructure.
On May 8, 2013, Dold announced his 2014 comeback bid, and now he is locked in a November rematch with Schneider for the north suburban Illinois 10th Congressional District seat.
It is the biggest contest in the Chicago area, with national Democratic and Republican political organizations already bolstering their respective players and with more help in the works.
After Dold announced his candidacy, he filed a financial disclosure statement as required by all House candidates. And on it Dold revealed he made $75,000 from White Whale.
What Dold did not disclose was that he was a board member of the Washington, D.C.-based America’s Infrastructure Alliance, even though the statement requires “all positions, compensated or uncompensated” held in the two prior years to be reported.
I asked Dold about this in an interview where we discussed his work at White Whale and AIA. Dold told me his AIA position was unpaid and he did not think volunteer positions needed to be disclosed on the statement. Dold said if indeed that is the case, he will correct the record.
Dold told me he was “certainly not trying to hide the fact” that he sits on the AIA board.
Dold and White Whale
First, let’s look at White Whale.
According to State of Illinois records, White Whale Consulting LLC. was created on March 6, 2013, located at 414 Frontage Rd. in Northfield, the same address where the family business, Rose Pest Solutions has offices.
Dold, in our interview, told me he is the sole employee of White Whale — and did not reference Moby Dick or Captain Ahab when I asked about the name. It was just an “interesting name,” Dold said, for a company trying to find “solutions to problems that may be difficult.”
Dold told me White Whale had only a single client and only in 2013. The client was a for-profit firm not located in Illinois. Dold said he could not divulge the name of his client.
So this brings us to the next question, what did Dold do as a consultant to earn $75,000 in 2013? Dold describes White Whale as a “general consulting company” on his disclosure statement.
Dold said he provided “advice and counsel” and “strategic thinking” to his client in the area of “workforce readiness” and “STEM” or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.
These are areas Dold said he is “passionate” about and took an interest in during his term in Congress, working with community colleges and small businesses in the district.
“This was a company that said, ‘Wow, this is something that we’d like to do, so can you give us some advice and counsel on how we roll out this program to help make sure that we can be bringing manufacturers and students together in a more rapid and effective way,” Dold told me.
I told Dold this seemed vague to me. Dold said he could not reveal more about what his client’s business did or provide more details about the nature of this “program.”
Dold and AIA
Now, on to America’s Infrastructure Alliance, a transportation industry coalition created in March 2013 with Dold one of the five-member board of directors — all with Republican pedigrees.
Though he was not on the Transportation Committee while in Congress, Dold told me transportation infrastructure is “something I’ve been passionate about for a long time,” and is important to the Chicago area. Dold said he is a “big proponent” of federal transportation infrastructure investment.
Dold said the AIA “is a group that is trying to talk about education and the need for infrastructure spending . . . a key tool for jobs to grow the economy.”
The AIA is a 501c(4), an IRS designation for tax-exempt groups that are allowed to advocate and educate on issues. The AIA says on its website it is dedicated to “educating the American public, lawmakers and decision makers” about the need for “rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”
Controversy often surrounds 501c(4) organizations because while they do not lobby in the technical legal sense, they do seek to influence political outcomes — that’s why they are sometimes called “shadow lobbying” groups.
The chair of AIA is Jeff Loveng, a federal lobbyist who is registered to represent a variety of transportation-related clients. Loveng runs the AIA from the same Capitol Hill office where his lobbying firm is based.
Loveng’s AIA’s advisory board is made up of executives from airlines, railroad, trucking and waterways associations, that is, the industries for which he lobbies.
Loveng, a former chief of staff for former House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., told me he met Dold when he was in Congress and he would come to talk to Shuster about district transportation issues.
Loveng said a reason he recruited Dold for the AIA board was he thought Dold could “help introduce me to people” who might help him fundraise for the AIA.
Dold told me that never happened.